SPACE TO GROW

This section of the website draws together research and practical experience from a range of sources to investigate why new communities need to be designed with ‘space to grow' - flexible spaces, structures and services that can adapt as communities evolve and change.

Lessons Learned

Five key factors have been identified:

New communities evolve slowly as social networks develop and populations age and shift

Community master planning needs to be flexible

New communities need flexible use of land and buildings

‘Meanwhile use' should be encouraged

Social networks also need time to develop and to organise local governance structures which suit them

Adaptability is one of seven core objectives of urban design identified by CABE. If a new community is to be successful and sustainable, the place - the physical space, the amenities and the social infrastructureGlossary: refers to the range of activities, organisations and facilities supporting the formation, development and maintenance of social relationships in a community - needs to be able to adapt over time to new needs and new possibilities.

Getting the balance right at the planning stage is crucial, but it presents a challenge and is not easy. As has been argued in other sections of the website, new developments need to be well planned to ensure that basic amenities and a robust social infrastructureGlossary: refers to the range of activities, organisations and facilities supporting the formation, development and maintenance of social relationships in a community are in place from the time that residents begin to move into their new homes. However it is impossible to anticipate all the future needs of a community or to know what ideas, imagination, skills, capacity, enterprise and leadership the people themselves might bring. Also many aspects of social development cannot be planned in advance - community projects, governance arrangements and other local institutions need to evolve, building on relationships, recognition of common interests, a sense of mutuality and trust between residents and other stakeholdersGlossary: A group of people or an organisation with a legitimate interest in a given situation, action or enterprise that again needs time to develop.

These processes also need to be supported through investment in community development alongside the provision of local services. But in order to allow new communities to flourish, planning authorities should avoid a rigid ‘master-planning' approach that seeks to create a blueprint for the future. Rather, master plans need to be developed as "frameworks", or broad parameters to allow for a degree of ambiguity, uncertainty and openness to change, recognising that a new community will develop best if it is allowed to be dynamic and to evolve in ways that the designers and planners cannot entirely predict.

Elements within this ingredent:

1. New communities evolve slowly as social networks develop and populations age and shift

In designing places for the future, designers, policy makers and planners should make sure that communities have the space to develop their own distinctive character and to shape the place so that it better meets their needs, and have scope to change as populations age and shift and new patterns of work and social life emerge.

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2. Community master planning needs to be flexible

Research by the Keystone Development Trust identifies the important role master planning played in creating integrated communities in the New Towns.

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3. New communities need flexible use of land and buildings

Flexibility and interim use of land and buildings presents great potential in new communities, where local relationships, needs and ideas are taking shape.

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4. 'Meanwhile use' should be encouraged

New communities can take many years to complete. Residents can find themselves surrounded by semi-dereliction and building sites. Intermediate, or ‘meanwhile' use of land and buildings can provide much-needed space for community activities and interaction.

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